chauvinistic tradesmen

How to Respond to Chauvinistic Tradesmen

There were four types of tradesmen I encountered when I was an apprentice.

There were the tradesmen that enjoyed my presence onsite and couldn’t wait to tell their wives/girlfriends at dinner about how they worked alongside a female tradie. How did I know this? By the second day of working with such tradesmen, they would share at smoko how their missus responded with ‘go girl’ or ‘that’s awesome’. These tradesmen were gentlemen and were the best type of colleagues and managers to work with and for.

Then there were the tradesmen that wouldn’t say to my face they didn’t want me on site, but their demeanor said otherwise. Picking on the small hoop earrings I wore to site as it was an OHS issue, when another tradesman who had a single hoop or open hole piercing was not picked on. Issue granted, the hoop earrings were a bad idea but it was just one example of many. In essence, it would be one rule for the tradeswomen and something different for the tradesmen. Wanna check out my porn magazine darling? What do you think of this naked woman? My response: nothing. But you’re revealing more of your manhood, and you’re fully clothed.

The third type of tradesman were often managers or long time tradies who had been in the game for a long while. They ignored me onsite – and when I’d answer my dad’s phone, I was invisible. In some ways this treatment was better than the next type of male tradesman;

The chauvinistic tradesman who would scoff to my face (and anyone who cared to listen) I belonged behind the kitchen sink and not under it. Is it really a problem if a woman wants to do both?

Last week I saw a photo get shared on Facebook by A Woman’s Spark (a female solar service company), with 4 tradeswomen posing on a jobsite. The comments from men were humorous and revealed equality on the worksite has a long way to go.

One job site. Four female tradies

Posted by A Woman’s Spark on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

“Bitches seems to be in the wrong place get back in the kitchen!”

“What’re they actually doing? House looks like it was done ages ago”

“bet 2 blokes could do it quicker”

“To get to the kitchen you go “in” the house not “on”

“Really 3 people to hold one ladder…..”

And then this intelligent comment:

“Women can’t be sparkies”

I’m not going to share the names of the men who typed these comments, and there were heaps similar to this. All trying to outdo each other with their chauvinism and sexism. How inspiring.

Unfortunately, the post is proof (even if the comments were made in jest) guys still find it hard to accept women having a go on the tools.

So how does one respond to chauvinistic garbage?

Ignore it? Or respond with a witty answer? Tell them their brain is the size of their balls? (Wish I had the balls to use this one when I was onsite!)

We simply don’t have to respond because the joke is on them.

The world is slowly changing and like technology, old mindsets are boring, sad and unattractive.

Back in the day of my apprenticeship and working alongside other tradesmen, my response was often silence – with a dose of fear because I knew I was outnumbered.

It can be an intimidating environment to be in, even as a grown woman.

I know there are female tradeswomen and apprentices who face chauvinistic tradesmen day in and out on the job, not only in Australia, but around the world.

Ladies, the best response is to do your job well and to finish what you started.

The second thing you can do is to test them with this response, ‘Is that what you really think? That’s such old thinking. You are so much better than that.’

And tradesmen, you are better than that.

Old thinking can come back to bite you. A limited mind gets left behind.

How do you respond to chauvinism? Does it even require a response?

  • Janice Jones

    Well said and written Great encouragement to other Female Tradies Bec

    • Thank you. I hope it does encourage female tradies.

  • Rebecca Mair

    Had similar experiences and similar comments when Clipsal announced I would be working with them. The comments ranged from Woo-hoo, we need more women in the trade to why is she out of the kitchen. Jealousy and threat to their manhood are the usual issues and they don’t need to be. We work just as hard and have just as much talent (or lack of) than anyone else. 🙂

    • How ridiculous Bec! I agree it’s a mixture of jealousy and feeling threatened but there is no need for it. There is room for everybody to be successful as a tradie. I’m so pleased about your Clipsal Ambassadorship. I think it’s just brilliant. X

  • Just makes me so sad that this is still something we have to deal with, and it’s not only on the job site. It’s time that we were all accepted for who we are and what we can do.

  • Dan Sullivan

    Deconstructing the picture of this woman who wants to be seen as a welder…

    1. Highly flammable flannel shirt instead of a welding jacket.

    2. Shirt open so it will be caught on the work.

    3. Bare upper chest that will be badly burned by molten welding spray.

    4. Long hair hanging down in front where it will most certainly get caught in a grinder and pull the grinder into her face, or just catch fire.

    5. Little pouty expression of someone who hasn’t faced anything close to the challenges it takes to become a professional welder.

    This snowflake not only doesn’t know how to weld, but doesn’t even know the first thing about how to look like she knows how to weld. Yet she wants to be taken as seriously as people, both male and female, who have earned the right to be taken seriously.

    And THAT’S why she needs feminism!

    Men are usually impressed with women who show up ready to do the job. It’s women like the one pictured here who make us skeptical.

    • Hi Dan,
      thanks for your comment. I’m not sure where you are located, but I’m from Australia.

      In regards to ‘deconstructing the image’, you’ve missed the point of what she’s saying. Whether it’s been a styled image for the purpose of proving a point, the reality is many men still find it difficult working alongside women who want to do a trade. Your ‘deconstruction of the image’ is a poor reflection on your character, not hers. There is no pout, but an expression of ‘why the hell do I have to put up with this crap?’

      We have stringent safety rules about what to wear when on a site, so I don’t know when this image was taken and whether those regulations were in place when she started.

      But do understand, we need men like yourself who are willing to work alongside women who want to work in the trade. Right now we have a trade crisis where there aren’t enough skilled tradespeople. Boys aren’t finishing their trade and there are willing women wanting to give it a go, but aren’t given a go because of the old thinking that a trade job is a ‘mans job’. Not only that, once she is given a job, she is judged for her appearance (as you have so clearly done here) or is the subject of sexual jokes and innuendo. Think how you’d feel if your female friend or daughter was subjected to that kind of behavior? And only because she wanted to give a trade a go because she believes it is her dream career. We need skilled tradespeople, what does it matter what’s between their legs? If they are skilled, let them get on with it.

      What makes you skeptical is not what you see in the picture. It’s your thought process. Rather than be skeptical, why not encourage her and sympathise with her treatment? I’m sure there are plenty of guys that have worn a similar flannel shirt and nothing was ever noted about their ‘hairy chests’ being on show and the possibility of getting their chest burned. And don’t tell me that men would follow the safety rules. I’ve worked with men who haven’t give two effs about safety and nothing has been said about their lack of safety attire. Interesting how rules flip between the sexes.

      I appreciate your comment, but understand the reason I wrote this article is for men like yourself. Thanks for giving me a chuckle with your comment.

      • Dan Sullivan

        I am in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (United States).

        Well, first of all, I hope you will refrain from making assumptions about my “thought process.” I hope you will also consider the possibility that the difficulties that men have working with (and for) women are not always and entirely the men’s fault. I used to have an unlicensed furniture moving business moving University of Pittsburgh students and others too poor to afford a licensed mover. When I needed both a helper and more space than my truck could hold, I called a woman competitor. While she wasn’t nearly as strong as the male helpers available to me, she was very intelligent about doing the job, and that more than made up for it.

        I also had women bosses, and, on average, I suppose they were just as good as the men bosses I have had. However, I had one boss, in a political job, unsurprisingly, who would ask for me to do things in a flirtatious way, as a favor to her, etc. As it was my job to do those things anyhow, I would have been far more comfortable just being told in a matter-of-fact way to do them. My problem was not that she was a woman, but that she had not made the transition from dealing with me as a guy who ought to responds to flirtation and feminine pleas for help to dealing with me as a person with a job to do who just wants instruction on how to do it. When I raised the issue, it became entirely my fault, and so I left the job. I’m sure she still believes I have a problem working for women.

        Men also have a problem walking on eggshells around easily offended women when they do not have to do so around other men. Men razz each other as part of the work environment, and it is only a problem for those who make it a problem. They especially razz new people to more or less test them out and draw out their personalities. And, for that matter, women do the same thing and do it to men. The only difference is that men are less inclined to whine about it.

        The other problem is that people in any protected minority can sue employers and co-workers for increasingly trivial slights, and enjoy the presumption that the slights were because of gender, race, orientation, etc., when those slights are quite often due to the attitude or competence of the person suing. For example, my wife had a job teaching unwed mothers on public assistance. Her job was to give them basic skills so they could go into career specialties. All of her co-workers were also women, so gender itself wasn’t an issue. However, one of the employees, a black woman, had sued to get into college and had sued the college for not graduating her. She did the absolute minimum possible, but they kept her on because it became clear that she would have sued them as well.

        The same problems exist with gender, not because of inherent differences between men and women, but because the law and the culture assumes that any internal friction is because of sexism, racism, etc., on the part of the white male. My experience and the experience of those I have talked to about this, is that we are not afraid of strong competent women, but find them admirable and great to work with. It’s weak, incompetent women who expect to be treated as strong and competent that scare the hell out of us.

        Pictures like this, of feminists overplaying their victim status, contribute to that fear. If the other women I saw featured on your root page had been holding that sign, it wouldn’t have looked ridiculous at all. But those women wouldn’t particularly have needed feminism, either. They would just have needed a few minutes to show what they could do, and the respect would be forthcoming – assuming they were roughly as competent as their male counterparts.

        On the other hand, there might be some cultural dynamic on the job that is a problem. I once had a job as a meat cutter, and most of the people there were poorly educated. Quite a few of them had been in and out of prison, and they seem to have gravitated toward a job that allowed them to cut flesh. I didn’t fit in, and they drummed me out of the place. I didn’t make a big deal of it, because I had not been trained to think in terms of being persecuted for my gender. It wasn’t long before I had a much better job somewhere else.

        If I could have sued them for harassment, would that have been better for anyone?

        • Dan Sullivan

          Also, I used to have long hair, back when it was fashionable. Everyone gets judged on their appearance. If I had showed up dressed like this woman is dressed, they might not have wondered if I was a stripper, but they sure would have wondered whatever made me think I was a welder. And the expression was indeed pouty. If the other women on your page were exasperated with the way they were treated, they might scowl, roll their eyes or grimace, but I really doubt they would be pouting like that.

          Everyone gets judged on their appearance. Demanding that women get a special pass is not equality.